College (clarification of meanings)

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The word college is used in many different senses. Most involve the central idea of 'an educational institution'; but within that general idea, the word is applied to different types of institution. Some are residential and others are not.

  • In Higher Education in the UK, a College is usually residential. It is sometimes
    • an institute of Higher Education, sometimes equivalent to a university and sometimes of a more limited scope.
    • A unit in a larger institution - a 'collegiate university', for example, such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
    • A free-standing University, formerly a member of a collegiate university, such as King's College and University College, London.
    • In America, a College may be the unit responsible for teaching first degrees within, or attached to, a University that awards post-graduate degrees.
      • In America and other English-speaking countries, and in British circles where Higher Education is a new departure in a family, the phrase "going away to College" is sometimes used for 'taking up a residential place for a course in Higher Education'. In families more familiar with Higher Education, this is called 'going to University' (or, in the case of Oxford and Cambridge, 'going up').
  • In Further Education in the UK, a College is usually non-residential. It is a locally-based institution focussed on vocational education and preparation for the workplace. Colleges of this sort may be further labelled, as Technical Colleges, secretarial colleges, business colleges and so on.
    • Crossing the boundary between FE colleges and secondary schools are Sixth Form Colleges. These are designed mostly for academic post-compulsory schooling, and prepare candidates for University application, and for skilled work. They are non-residential.
  • In secondary education in the UK, College is a title borne proudly by schools with claims to academic success.
    • Some are public schools, founded like the Oxbridge colleges by royal, noble and ecclesiastical patrons.
    • Boys at such colleges may be known as Collegers; specifically, King's Scholars (70 in number), who board in a House called College at Eton are known as Collegers. Their equivalents at Winchester College are known as Collegemen. A better general word for 'those who attend college' is collegian.
    • Some are state or private schools, often selecting their intake by academic ability. The name may be chosen for reasons of perceived prestige.
    • Some Roman Catholic religious orders for teaching chose College as a title when they were first allowed to offer secondary education in the UK.

Colleges outside the world of education include:

  • certain highly respected professional bodies, especially in health professions;
  • residences for members of celibate religious orders, usually Roman Catholic, and with strong implications of training for the priesthood.
    • Some institutions formerly of this type, but adapted to different functions since the Reformation.
  • Groups of senior voters elected by the franchised to make choices, nominally on their behalf, between candidates for high office are known as electoral colleges.
  • One of the highest courts in Scotland is known as the College of Justice.
    • In nineteenth century criminal slang, a sentence of imprisonment was sometimes called 'going to college', and 'graduates' of such schemes were known as collegians.

For some explanation, or hint of an explanation, of how these different meanings came to be used, you may like to see AWE's pages on the background of the non-educational meanings of the word College and the background of the educational meanings of the word College.